Poirot's Chronicles - Hercule Ch. 02byvelvetpie©
A great many people have undertaken to portray Agatha Christie's Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, but in my opinion, none has done it as well as David Suchet, star of ITW productions of Poirot. It is his image that I use as my visual and those of Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings), Pauline Moran (Miss Lemon) and Philip Jackson (Chief Inspector Japp). ENJOY!
Felicity Lemon entered Poirot's office early, as she always did, neatly balancing his beloved tisane and several articles of mail that had arrived late yesterday. Her blue and white dress swirled gently around her ankles and the fine fabric molded to the contours of her thighs and ass as she set the tray on the desk.
"Ah, Miss Lemon! You are feeling well today?"
"Yes, Mr. Poirot. Right as rain."
"Very good." He accepted the cup and saucer from her with a smile.
"Have you seen this morning's paper?"
Miss Lemon unfolded the paper and laid it at Poirot's side. The page showed a photo of the delectable Joceline Tarrant, a stylish hat cocked on her head. The review that accompanied spoke volumes of the greatness of her talent and her obvious beauty. "You said you saw her last night."
"Oui, Miss Lemon. She was absolute perfection."
"That's high praise coming from you, Mr. Poirot." She pulled the shades aside, welcoming the weak English sunlight. "She must have been very good."
"That is, how you say, an understatement, Miss Lemon. Miss Joceline Tarrant was most probably the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life."
"Well, what about me?"
Poirot turned to his secretary, confusion furrowing his brow. "What about you, Miss Lemon?"
"You don't think I'm beautiful?"
"Mais oui, mademoiselle! I have always thought that you were beautiful!"
"Then why didn't you ever ask me out to dinner or to a show?"
"Miss Lemon, " Poirot took a sip of the tisane, quickly becoming frustrated with the conversation. "You and I have had dinner quite a bit … "
"But not in a romantic sense."
"Really, Miss Lemon!"
"Well, it's the truth, Mr. Poirot. You have never taken me to dinner and looked at me as if I was beautiful."
"Miss Lemon, when have you ever seen Poirot romantic?"
The elegant Miss Lemon turned to her employer, her expression showing that she was working through her memories, searching for an answer that matched his question. A small smile creased her lips when she came to the realization that there was no time that she'd ever seen him romantic. "You're quite right, Mr. Poirot. I have never seen you romantic."
"Thank you. Now will you kindly leave me in peace to enjoy my tisane?"
Poirot hated the smug smile that Miss Lemon carried with her but he knew it was better than telling her the truth. No woman wanted to hear that a man was not attracted to her. And Miss Lemon would not let him forget if she found out. The phone rang in the other room and he heard the muffled drone of Miss Lemon's voice as she answered. A few seconds later, she pushed the connecting glass panel aside.
"Miss Joceline Tarrant for you, sir."
Poirot choked, dropping his spoon onto his spotless blotter. He avoided Miss Lemon's questioning glare and daintily dabbed at his mouth. "Put her through."
A deep breath, a calm smoothing of napkin. She's just another woman, Poirot told himself. When the phone rang, startling him, he knew those words just weren't true. He lifted the receiver with an unsteady hand. "Poirot."
"Monsieur Poirot? It's Joceline. Joceline Tarrant. We met at Club Tropico last night."
"Yes, yes, Miss Tarrant. I have not forgotten our meeting so quickly. How can I be of service to you?"
"Someone's trying to kill me, Mr. Poirot, and I need your help."
Poirot arranged to meet her at the corner café, a nice, quiet place that had a number of booths inside and did not cater to the discriminatory undercurrent that flowed through the city. He arrived fifteen minutes early, his charcoal gray pants perfectly creased, his striped vest and cravat perfectly starched and his jacket perfectly pressed. His matching bowler had been steamed and blocked, his kid gloves oiled and the silver duck on the hilt of his walking cane gleamed in the bright sunshine.
He selected a booth near the rear of the establishment so that they could have privacy and settled in, checking the time on his pocket watch. Precisely thirteen minutes later, she entered the shop and café owner Henri dashed over, grasping both of her hands and bussing her cheeks while gushing shamelessly about her talent. She graciously accepted his praise and allowed him to be led to the booth where Poirot sat waiting.
Poirot was almost speechless at seeing her beauty in the radiance of the sunlight. The creaminess of her skin shone and he found himself drowning in the dark depths of her fathomless eyes. He swept his hat off, bowing low. "Bonjour, Miss Tarrant."
"Hello, Mr. Poirot."
He waited until she was comfortably seated and had ordered tea before speaking again. "I was very happy to hear from you again."
"I was happy to call you, Mr. Poirot, although I wish it was under better circumstances."
"Oui, mademoiselle. I wish this also." He gave her hand a gentle pat. "Now, tell me why you think someone is trying to kill you."
Joceline opened her purse and pulled out a hastily folded sheaf of paper. "This was left on my dressing table."
Poirot affixed his pince-nez on the end of his nose and took the paper, holding the edges gingerly as he pulled it open. "Was there an envelope?"
"Please," His eyes flicked up to touch hers. "Call me Hercule."
"Then call me Lina. It's my nickname from my band mates."
Poirot smiled briefly, then returned his attention to the letter. In a bold, blocky script, words sprawled across the smooth face of the paper, declaring that Miss Joceline Tarrant would meet with death if she did not leave town immediately. "Have you received any such letters before, mademoiselle?"
Her lovely face crumpled and her gloved fingers extracted three other papers from the purse. "These have arrived at our last three stops."
"Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham. We stay here for another two days, then we play one night in Bournemouth before taking a ferry to Le Havre, then by train to Paris."
"And did you play any other places before Manchester?"
"And you received no letters at those places?"
"What about at your home?"
"No, sir." His eyes caught hers and she smiled. "No, Hercule. No letters there, either."
Poirot grunted in thought. "It is very strange that you receive them only here, in England, and not anywhere else." He examined the other letters carefully. "And all of them wish death upon you."
Joceline nodded. "I've received angry letters before but never a death threat and certainly never in this quantity. Being of color and all … "
"Yes, yes, I understand. The world is full of idiots, Lina. I hope you do not take stock in their ignorant words." Poirot observed the fleeting pain in her face and wished that he could personally strangle every person who had denigrated this exquisite woman with their words of hate and loathing.
"If I did that, Hercule, I wouldn't be sitting here with you."
The touch of his name on her tongue sent a shiver down his spine and brought a smile to his serious face. "Indeed you would not nor would I be graced with the company of such a beautiful woman."
Joceline felt the heat rise in her face and thanked the timely intervention of Henri, bearing their tea. She poured two cups, using the sieve, then dropped three sugar cubes into her own brew. Poirot indicated that he wanted the same and so she repeated the action, then slid it across to him. "Merci." She wanted to talk but she sensed that he was deep in thought, letting the machinations of his brain work through the problem before him.
Joceline sipped her tea while observing the man that was Hercule Poirot. She had heard of him, as of course, the entire world had. The famous detective who never lost a case. He wasn't what you would call, handsome, but he was certainly charismatic. His head was shaped like an egg, elliptical with a dusting of black hair on top and a crown of the same dark hair tracing the circumference of his skull. His brows were thick as was his carefully sculpted mustache and pale pink lips completed a strong face.
"These were all written by the same person, even though he or she has tried to cover the fact up. They cannot fool Hercule Poirot. The little grey cells enjoy exercise such as this."
She nodded, still deep in her examination of the great detective. His body was mostly hidden by his extravagant finery but she could discern muscle beneath the fine cloth and his hands were well-manicured. Even the hairs on the backs had been trimmed. She found herself secretly wondering what it would be like to be worthy of Hercule Poirot's love. What kind of woman would be lucky enough to be the love of this fastidious man's life? Super-smart? Sexy? A combination of both?
"Did you hear me, Lina?"
Joceline caught his eyes and set her cup down. "I'm sorry, Hercule."
He seemed concerned. "Are you worried, mademoiselle?"
"Yes, I am." She knitted her fingers together, remembering the fear that she'd felt when she read the first one. "I may not be the right color or the right sex but I don't want to die."
The compassion in his eyes floored her and she fought the urge to throw herself into his arms. "Lina," His voice was soft, reaching not only her ears but her heart. "Seldom does a day go by in which I am not called a foreigner or a frog. These people do not realize that Hercule Poirot is Belgian, not French!" He calmed himself, wanting to apologize for the angry hiss but knowing that she understood. "You have been called much worse, I surmise, but nothing warrants the taking of your life." His gaze penetrated the tears that welled up in her eyes. "Hercule Poirot will make sure that no one takes your life, dear Lina. No one."
Joceline lowered her head, letting the tears fall into her tea, unable to stem the flow of emotion. It had been a long time since she'd felt that someone cared, really cared. "Thank you." She choked out.
"No." Poirot dropped his voice to a resonant whisper, capturing her hand and raising it reverently to his lips. "Thank you."
Poirot had scarcely closed the door behind him when Miss Lemon darted out from her office, Hastings behind her.
"Yes, Miss Lemon?"
"Chief Inspector Japp called for you. There's been a murder at the Saint-Thérèse Orphanage and he'd like you to get out there as soon as possible."
"And where is this place?"
Hastings consulted the clock on the mantle. "We'd better hurry if we're going to catch the train."
Chief Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard was rubbing his chin thoughtfully as he navigated the stairs of the orphanage, heading for a breath of fresh early evening air. The nuns of the Saint-Thérèse Orphanage were frightened, as well they should be. Murders of this sort weren't run of the mill in rural Bath and certainly didn't occur to respectable older ladies like Sister Bernadetta. Until his lads could figure out what had happened, all of their lives were at stake.
He was particularly perturbed that a sister named Lilia was not allowing him access to the scene because she said that Sister Bernadetta was in an ‘ungodly state' and that it would be disrespectful to lay eyes upon her until the local priest could correct the problem. Japp's problem was that he didn't want the priest to ‘correct' anything. This was a murder and ‘ungodly state' or not, it was a crime scene and should not be touched by anyone except members of the Scotland Yard.
Since no local priest could be found, Japp requested the aid of his long-time friend and sometime rival, Hercule Poirot, to act as the intermediary. Sister Lilia had heard of Poirot's reputation and was somewhat comforted by the fact that he was unmarried and showed no signs of entering that lawful estate.
He growled in frustration, scaring a young constable and contemplated following him until the hack drove up, Poirot and Hastings in the passenger seat. "Well, it's about time that you showed up!"
Poirot stepped out of the vehicle and gave a quick, short bow. "Good evening, Chief Inspector Japp." He ignored the police man's irritated look and made room for Hastings to disembark. "I understand that there's been a murder."
"Yes. A female. Name's Sister Bernadetta."
"One of the nuns?" Hastings queried, casting his eye about the scenery. "That's wretched!"
Japp nodded in agreement. "Damned sisters won't let me and my boys in … "
"Yes, yes. Unless the story has deviated from the one you told Miss Lemon, I completely understand the situation. Let us proceed."
Chief Inspector Japp led the way down a blued flagstone path, heading towards a tall lady who regarded them with watchful eyes, her arms around a small boy. "Sister Lilia?"
Her imperious eyes turned toward Poirot with seeming recognition. "You are Hercule Poirot?"
"Oui, madam. Hercule Poirot, at your service." He said with a flourish and a touch to his hat brim.
She flew down the steps, launching her bony frame into his arms, suddenly sobbing uncontrollably. "Oh, Mr. Poirot! She's dead! Sister Bernadetta is dead!"
It took several minutes before Poirot was able to peel the inconsolable Sister Lilia off of him and escort her into orphanage, placing her in the sitting room. Another nun, who introduced herself as Sister Evangeline brought a glass of water and a cool cloth for Sister Lilia's face.
"Sister Lilia, I must leave now … "
"No!" Her big blue eyes flew open and she grasped Poirot's forearm in a death grip. "You mustn't leave!"
Poirot shushed her gently, covering her cold, bony hand with his thick, warm one. "I must view the scene so that the Chief Inspector can perform his duties. Remember, dear one, this is why you asked for Poirot." He gave her a soft smile at her nod.
"I will stay with her, sir." Sister Evangeline piped up, taking her hand from his arm and curling her fingers against her palm.
"Thank you, mademoiselle." Poirot laid his hat and gloves on the side table, carefully balancing his cane against it as well. "Come, Hastings. Let us be done with this."
Japp led the way to Sister Bernadetta's room, located in the rear of the main wing. Each nun had her own room and several peeked out from behind cracked doors, watching the elegantly-dressed Poirot stride down the hall and gingerly open her door.
"If you would be so good as to wait outside, Chief Inspector."
Japp growled angrily. "Well, just don't be too long. We've already been waiting long enough." Poirot nodded and stepped into the room, Hastings close behind.
"Good God, Poirot!" Hastings exclaimed as they entered the chamber, Poirot quickly closing the door behind them. "She's … "
"Naked? Yes, mon ami. I surmised as much when Japp said that she was in an ‘ungodly state'." Poirot approached the bed, yanking his pince-nez out of his pocket and putting them on.
"Well, that's definitely ungodly!"
Poirot heard the edge in his friend's voice. "If her nakedness bothers you so much, Hastings, you have my permission to leave. I can conduct the investigation alone."
Hastings swallowed, clearly uncomfortable. "No, no. I think I can manage."
"Good man." He returned his attention to the body. Sister Bernadetta lay sprawled across her bed, her stiff purple tongue protruding from her open mouth and a satin lingerie article bunched around her waist. Her unseeing eyes were wide open as were her legs, the knees up and slightly bent.
Hastings went to the window, checking the latches. "All of the latches are still in place so whoever it was, she let him in."
"Him, Hastings? How do you know it was a ‘him'?"
"Well, that's obvious, Poirot. From her position, it looks as if she had sex with someone."
"Indeed, mon ami." Poirot carefully checked the sheets, then moved her head aside, exposing her neck.
"The marks of someone's hands." Hastings nodded in agreement, his eyes drawn to the livid purple bruises. "And here. Look at her cheeks and her eyes. See those veins? Those, my friend, are called petechiae. They are the by-product of strangulation."
"So she was strangled."
"Oui, and that makes it all the more important that the killer is found."
"Why is that?"
"Strangulation is a passionate way to murder someone. It requires the murderer to have physical contract with his victim. It is much more intimate than using a gun or a knife."
"Wow." Hastings paused, deep in thought. "I didn't think about it like that."
"No, mon ami, I wouldn't have expected you to." Poirot turned his scrutiny towards the rest of the body, pausing to admire the dusky splendor of her rose-colored nipples against the alabaster of her dead flesh. "A murder like this implies not only intimacy but most likely, personal knowledge."
Hastings nodded. "Yes! That would explain why the window locks are in place."
"Exactly." He continued in his perusal, scanning the flat abdomen and the long legs connected to wide, child-bearing hips. Poirot sighed, knowing that these hips would bear no children and moved between the legs. Her pussy was a darker rose color than her nipples but no less beautiful. The hair had been trimmed back and the thick lips were splayed open, coated with a dried milky liquid. More of the creamy fluid, mixed with what looked like blood, was still slowly trickling from her open hole. "Interesting."
"Sister Bernadetta was a virgin."
"How do you know?"
"The blood, Hastings. Look here."
"Uh, no, thanks. I'll just take your word for it." Hastings averted his eyes, examining the room's objects in an attempt to seem interested.
"It all makes sense." The detective arose, then carefully pulled a sheet over the naked body. "Sister Bernadetta was most probably killed by her lover."
"But I thought that nuns … "
"Yes, Hastings. You thought correctly. But it seems that the good sister was about to leave the order."
"How do you know that?"
"Her luggage." Hastings followed the direction of Poirot's eyes and saw two large suitcases and a smaller valise perched atop it. "According to Japp, Sister Bernadetta had been in the order for nearly 16 years. Now what would cause such a devout follower to suddenly cast everything aside?"
"Love." Hastings said quietly.
"Precisement. Only the promise of love would cause her to think differently about the vows she had taken." He looked down at the body. "And only the promise of love would cause her to give away the most important gift a woman can give to a man." Poirot gripped the door knob, pausing to cast another look about the large, airy room, his hard eyes tinged with sadness. "It is a pity that the love she craved, she did not find."
Hastings glanced over at the body as well, following the detective from the room, his voice husky with misery. "Indeed."
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